In 2017, the United States Mint celebrated the 225th anniversary of its creation with the construction of the Philadelphia Mint as authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792. The highlight of the Mint’s celebrations was the 2017 American Liberty Proof Gold Coin.
Part of a new series of coins and medals that showcase a modern take on Lady Liberty, the $100 face value gold coin features Liberty portrayed as a confident and youthful African-American woman. This is the first time that Liberty has been explicitly depicted as an African-American; Hettie Anderson, an African-American woman from South Carolina, served as the model for Liberty on the $20 Double Eagle gold coin designed by American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, but Liberty there is not expressly African-American.
The first coin in the series was released in 2015, with it companion silver medal arriving in 2016. The 2017 version was released on April 6 of this year. A Proof finish silver medal from Philadelphia was released individually on June 14, and a four-medal set was issued on October 19. The set features a Proof medal from San Francisco bearing the “S” mint mark; a Reverse Proof medal from Philadelphia bearing a “P” mint mark; an Uncirculated medal from the Denver Mint, complete with “D” mint mark; and an Enhanced Uncirculated (laser frosted) medal from West Point (“W”).
The obverse design was created by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist Justin Kunz – his initials “JK” are found next to Liberty’s right shoulder. Kunz’s Liberty faces left and features braided hair that has been tied back in a bun and crowned by a diadem of four large stars. Unusual at first glance, the diadem is based on a similar piece that adorns 19th-century sculptor Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom (1857-62), which stands atop the dome of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C..
The design was adapted and engraved by Mint sculptor-engraver Phebe Hemphill. Her initials, an italicized “PH”, are found to Liberty’s left.
The year 1792–the first part of the coin’s dual date–is inscribed on the left side while the year 2017 is inscribed on the right. Otherwise, the inscriptions LIBERTY and IN GOD WE TRUST are found at the top and the bottom of the obverse, respectively.
The reverse, which features an American bald eagle on the downstroke flying from left to right, was designed by AIP artist Chris Costello and engraved by Mint sculptor Michael Gaudioso. Costello’s initials “CTC” are located on the bottom of the coin next to the West Point (W) mintmark, and Gauidoso’s initials “MG” are located on the right edge between the tips of the eagle’s left wing and the “S” in the inscription 100 DOLLARS.
Inscriptions include UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, E PLURIBUS UNUM, 100 DOLLARS, the “W” mintmark and 1 OZ .9999 FINE GOLD.
The edge of the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin features the legend * 225th ANNIVERSARY repeated three times counterclockwise around the coin in raised lettering. The rim on both sides of the coin is relatively thick.
Some collectors expressed their dislike of the design, which features a young African-American woman on the obverse. Certain aesthetic choices (Liberty’s hair and hairstyle, or the outsized stars on her diadem, for example) received special criticism. Other collectors–and by no means a large number–complained that the coin represents politically correct “pandering” to a specific ethnic group, and for that reason is not a good choice to portray the allegorical Lady Liberty, who is supposed to represent all Americans.
Counter to this are those who have embraced the coin because of the design’s overall artistic excellence – as well as African-Americans and others who have historically felt under-represented on our nation’s money. No one expects a coin to solve the United States’ very real problems with race or the ongoing struggle to define what values we as Americans hold dear. Nevertheless, the 2017 American Liberty gold coin is part of a series of modern interpretations of Lady Liberty, a reflection of the country’s people and her contemporary values.
Designer Justin Kunz is a participant in the United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP), and has made several contributions to the Mint’s recent selection of commemorative and collector coins. He has also done design work for the game World of Warcraft.
Sculptor-engraver Phebe Hemphill joined the U.S. Mint in 2006, and since that time has become one of the nation’s most prolific coin designers (View Designer’s Profile).
Designer and U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Chris Costello is responsible for numerous contemproary sides from the Mint, including commemoratives, America the Beautiful Quarters and First Spouse gold coins. But his claim to pop-cultural fame is as the inventor of the Papyrus font.
Engraver Michael Gaudioso joined the Mint in 2009. He studied art at the New York Academy Graduate School of Figurative Art in New York City and sculpture at the Repin Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||2017|
|Mint Mark:||W (West Point)|
|Weight:||31.108 g (1.0000 troy oz)|
|Diameter:||30.61 mm (1.205 in)|
|Edge:||Raised Edge Lettering (* 225th ANNIVERSARY * repeated three times)|
|OBV Designer||Justin Kunz | Phebe Hemphill|
|REV Designer||Chris Costello | Michael Gaudioso|
Keep up with all the latest coin releases from the United States Mint by clicking on CoinWeek’s Modern U.S. Coin Profiles Page.
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